Depending on the kind of workout, its intensity and duration, exercise can increase the heart rate, raise the body’s temperature and use the body’s energy. When all these changes happen, the body responds by sweating. Sweat is simply a homogeneous mixture of fluids and electrolytes sodium that is released when the body wants to cool itself down. While individuals vary, sodium content of sweat usually ranges from 25 to 75 miliequivalents per liter. And, individuals performing high intensity exercises usually have sweat rates of 1 to 2.5L per hour. Sodium intake should match the sweat loss rate to reduce detrimental effects to your health.
The recommended sodium intake is 2400mg per day. If you don’t supply your body with sufficient sodium before, during and after exercising, the deficiency symptoms can take a toll on your health. One of the most seriously affected areas of your body is the nervous system. Generally, sodium deficiency leads to vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, headache, weakness, weight loss to name a few. Many people know that replacing the sodium lost through sweat is crucially important, but they do not really know why. Let’s dive a little deeper and look at why you should have sodium in your diet if you’re working out.
Increases blood volume
As sweat losses increase during exercise, blood volume is slowly reduced, since sweat is drawn from blood plasma. This strains your cardiovascular system, making it difficult to pump blood to the working muscles and to the skin to cool your body down. Issues such as weakness, thirst, nausea, muscle cramps and fatigue can be experienced if significant imbalances between fluid and sodium are allowed to continue. Up to certain level water is sufficient to mitigate sweat losses. But, as the sweat losses begin to mount up, you need to replace the lost sodium as well to avoid your blood becoming diluted.
Helps regulate body fluid
As the body sweats during workout, electrolytes and fluids are lost. If an individual doesn’t consume enough sodium, water imbalance can result. Sodium is one among the minerals that regulate the levels of fluid in and around the body’s cells. Realize that the amount of sodium in your blood has a close correlation to the amount of water in your body. Blood sodium level is dependent on the amount of water and sodium you ingest. Too much water and your sodium levels decrease. Too little water and your sodium levels increase. Both conditions result to complications.
Help prevent rehydration
Sodium stimulates thirst mechanism and it improves the speed at which the small bowel can absorb water and carbohydrate – this helps rehydration and delay muscle fatigue. When water has been absorbed, sodium also aids the body to store it by retaining large amounts of fluid, and urine output is decreased. Research suggests that eating about 450mg or more of sodium per hour of exercise is required to maintain plasma volume and sodium levels. For optimal performance, especially if you are working out in humid temperatures, it is important to consume sodium on a regular basis.
Improves brain functions
The brain is highly sensitive to changes in the sodium levels of the body. The brain needs sodium to perform at its best. Sodium helps in keeping the brain sharp, and it is an important component for brain development, since it works to develop brain function. Basically, sodium deficiency causes a sluggish brain response which impairs normal cognitive function. If you are exercising, how much sodium you should ingest will depend on how much and how intensely you are workout – and how much sweat you loss during workout.
Prevent muscle cramp
Muscle cramps occur mainly during the hot summer months because of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Along with hydrating the body during workout, it is important to supplement your body with sodium-rich foods to restore the amount of electrolytes that are lost through sweat. Sodium is an important anti-aging product contained in a number of anti-aging creams. It protects the skin against the free radicals that expedite the aging process. Moreover, it helps to restore a healthy and a youthful complexion.
Eliminates carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide output is reliant on the amount of energy the body is using. The body always needs energy for basic operations, meaning carbon dioxide is being constantly produced as well. The body has no use for carbon dioxide. So, this waste product is transported back into the bloodstream. It is diffused into the blood plasma where it’s transported by the veins back into the lungs, where it is exhaled out of the body. Sodium plays a crucially important role in the excretion of any excess carbon dioxide that has amassed in the body.
Increases blood volume
Sodium has a form of pressure known as oncotic pressure, which draws body fluid to it. Since even a small amount of additional fluid in the blood stream is essential in the body when exercising, it is important to kick off with more. This is different than retaining excess fluid, which usually occurs when you consume sodium packed foods or ingest a high-sodium supplement while exercising. With this kind of fluid retention, the fluids move freely into the non-plasma, non-cellular gap between the tissues.
Help prevent sunstroke
Sunstroke, also known as heatstroke, is the result of exposure to very high temperatures. This condition is further worsened by the loss of sodium and water from the body. As such, sodium plays an extremely important role in preventing sunstroke by replacing the loss of essential electrolytes. Drinking fluids or taking foods that contain sodium is favorable against this condition. Realize that stores of sodium in the human body are limited, and it cannot be manufactured, so any losses through exercise have to be replaced in your diet and drinks.
There you have it! Why you should have sodium in your diet if you’re working out. The amount of sodium lost in sweat during exercise varies from one person to the next. As such, understanding your individual levels of sodium loss during exercise can help you put a proper amount of sodium back in. Figuring out what your individual levels are is a good place to start.